People always be saying
A weed is a plant in the wrong place
Like something that was lost and misplaced
Or like a person that should know better
An errant plant
A child taking bites out of the fruit in the supermarket before its paid for
A fly that is in your thirty dollar entree
The wrong place
Bad plant, evil weed, nasty invader, bully
Wrong Incorrect Failure Problem Loss Scourge Defeat

Okay
There is the issue of control and territory, native and immigrant (A)
There is the issue of movement, import and export (B)
There is the issue of ugliness, and beauty (C)
There is the issue of production and money (D)
There is the issue of killing them darn weeds, and killing ourselves in the process (E)
There is a way to live with them (F)
We will take this one issue at a time

(A)

Whoever owns the land, they decide who is the good plant
Who is the bad plant
Some plants are kinda in between, not that bad, not good for much either, in between
Say you run cattle or sheep, you don’t want no poisonous or unpalatable plants that cause abortions in pregnant ewes or give the heifer the staggers and fall over
Locoweed, nightshade, star thistle, oleander – all weeds, no good for ruminants
Oats, rye, clover – these are the good pasture plants that make nutritious hay and creamy milk
Good plants, not bad plants.

Say you are in the flats trying to grow corn and potatoes
Its all woodland. Well all those trees – weeds
Cut em down
Pine, cottonwood, sycamore, fir – all weeds
All those pretty wild flowers and unnamed grasses – weeds, plow em, spray em
On the farm, they are all in your way – weeds

You are in the restoration business
Helping to create and build
Nature
Helping to restore a wetland
Helping to restore a prairie
Helping to restore something that took nature thousands of years to grow
And less than a hundred years to destroy
Okay whats the weed?
Restorationists around these parts say
A native plant is what was here when natives ruled
Not white people
Not black people
Not yellow people
Native people
So check the flora and ethnobotanical explorer accounts
Check the DNA and oral traditions
In this case of control, ownership, and function:
Native = good
Non native = weed
Native = good
Naturalized = not as good as a native cause you not from around here originally
But okay you can stay cause you’re breeding here now, and not invasive
Non native invasive = a really bad weed you cant seem to get rid of

Take for example ice plant Hottentot fig Carpobrotus edulis
Back in the day, late 1800’s
San Francisco west side all sandy dunes
There was some rhizomatous grasses, low lying strawberry, silver lupines and blue butterflies
Not much grow out there in the dry blowing windy sands
But the city is growing, people are coming, theres still gold in the hills
So better start building houses on the west side
How to stabilize the sand dunes?
Enter ice plant, mats of sunflower like flower carpets, succulent leaves resistant to salt spray
The fruit edible, tastes like kiwi and prickly pear
Ice plant from Africa – South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope
Bring em in to do a job
Army Corps of Engineers flattened the dunes and slowed down the shifting sands
With a lot of ice plant plantings
The Corps tamed the outer lands
Tamed the topography
Made the useless useful
Made civilization in the wilderness
Now, there are houses and streets and stores and schools
Where there was once junky dry sands
Along the Great highway next to the sea
Ice plant saved the day
Fast forward to now
These days
Ice plant is a non native invasive weed
Its takin over!
Restore the endangered sand dunes
Restore the endangered species
So we pull it up and stack it to dry and die in the sun
Its taking over!
Once it was good, now it is bad
Restoration is not easy, mending the broken connections
And making whole
The harmony of the past and present
Blending the new comers and those who have been here

(B) Many weeds were brought here by people in transit in movement in motion
They did not always start out as weeds
But time outgrew their usefulness
Human culture and society changed and moved on
The plants did not change, but attitudes about them did
They are feral herbs and wild vegetables and goat food
They are ornamental flowers and floristry arrangements

Many weeds are hitchhikers stowaways sneaky thieving hideaways
They are stuck on a shoe or a sock or inside a pants pocket
They are tucked in a bale of hay or on a rodents back or inside a birds stomach
They go through customs and borders and fences and walls and go undetected
Plants love to disperse
They love to go where there is opportunity and openings and space
They love to live where there are few predators and the weather is fine
They love to live where the sun is shining and the amount of water is ‘just right’

People love to move plants
Plants are a part of a culture a tradition a smell a taste of mom’s cooking
Plants are grandpas cordage and pipe filler
Plants are the land where you come from
Plant fragrances root you in childhood memories
Plants like to travel to new places and people too

Nowadays when I look at a median strip
The island in the road that is not paved
There’ve been beautification efforts
Trees planted, flowers blooming
Amidst all of this, weeds growing
For gosh sakes
On top
On top of the weed cloth and mulch and gravel
Weeds named oats and rye, clover
But wait, those are pasture plants, forage for cattle
No, they are weeds
Weed whack them, spray them, pull them

(C) Are all weeds ugly and unkempt?
Is ugliness the same as bad and evil and invasive?
No
Yes weeds have flowers
Yes weeds can be pretty
A backyard of nasturtiums and wild onions is colorful and easy on the eyes
Easy on the maintenance
Cause they are all weeds and need no care
But there is a random natural look of plants that grow on their own
Come in on their own without human invitation
That is disturbing to the aesthetic sensibility of many people
Such a palette makes them nervous and worse, angry
The weeds like to grow right up against each other
Smother each other even
Mix and match, jumble wumble mosaic
They know no limits!
They don’t stop growing at the 3’ x 3’ square
They don’t grow in neat rows or straight lines
They don’t always have upright trunks and poof out in symmetry
They are never one pure color, it is always a mess
They do their own thing
They sprawl and lean and skoot along underground
They bend over and lay back and exhibit
Heaven forbid
Brown leaves old leaves and bare stems
They dont stop growing
The ugly things in the sidewalk
The ugly lawn daisies in the pure stand of green fescue
The ugly morning glory twining up the camellias
Ugly perhaps in their behavior
In their ability to thwart the evolved advanced genius two legged humans
But on the other hand
Individually, weeds are plants are beauty are life abundant are creation
Don’t get too mad

(D) Weeds can get in the way of production and making cash
They will edge in next to your crop of brussels sprouts and artichokes
They will choke out your tomatoes and eggplants
They will suffocate your magnolia tree and swallow your tulips
They will steal the food and drink the water
They will squeeze out others’ roots and block the sun
Weeds are bad bad creatures
In the old times plowing and hoeing did the trick
But that sure was a lot a lot of work
Then along came herbicides plant killing chemicals
That cleaned up the field and smacked down the weeds
Then the weeds started fighting back
Its been back and forth ever since
Same as before, same as always, same as it ever will be
Just try and stay a little ahead okay
For survival’s sake

(E) There are a few basic ways to kill an unwanted plant
One way is to physically cut it, dig it out, pull it
The timing has to be right
Wet soil is easier than dry
Sandy soil is easier than clay
Weeds can resprout from its base
From its trunk
From a little piece of tap root you left behind
Trowels, hoes, pick axes, axes, saws
For big tracts of land, machinery sure is a great tool
Disc it, mow it, plow it

Weeds can germinate easily in the plowed and disturbed soil
It is what they are best at
The soil is their bank
A seed bank
Seeds buried a few inches a foot down two feet down
Seeds germinate after a fifty year dormancy
After a hundred year sleep
After a thousand year rest
They still come up

Another way to get rid of weeds is chemicals
You spray em on the weed
The weed dies
You still may have to cut it and clean it up
But at least it is dead and easier to cut
Watch out you don’t accidentally spray the good plants
Watch out you don’t accidentally spill the chemicals all over yourself
Watch out some little kid doesn’t come and drink the chemicals or pick the sprayed weeds to eat
Watch out that you use too much and the stuff don’t work anymore
Watch out that you use too much and all of nature all her creatures go quiet
Watch out in the heat of the battle against weeds
You lose sight of nature
You forget adaptation and resilience
You stop breathing and enjoying the greenery of our planet

Once in a while you can use a bug, an insect, to kill weeds
This usually means going to the weed’s area of origin and finding some bugs that feed on it
Then bringing the bugs home, breeding them, then releasing them
This is for experts only, USDA and Plant Health Station quarantines and the like
Not for gardeners in a residential garden
Not for small farmers on 100 acres
Experts only

(F) You got to live with the weeds! Theres no way around them
They are here to stay
Ever since they came up on the land
From the sea
They have been at work
While you are watching the screen
They are growing and spreading
While you are eating and sleeping
They are growing and spreading
While you are partying at a birthday or sitting quietly at a funeral wake
They are growing and spreading
They are not going away
Prevention is the key
And the key to prevention is understanding the ecology of plants, the ecology of weeds
Design well, make maintenance painless, make maintenance easy

Cover the earth always
Weeds seeds are abundant, and can be smothered and covered
Cardboard and chips is okay
Or use stone and concrete
The fallen leaf litter of maples and pine needles is good
Or the dead bodies of the weeds themselves
Left to stack and dry and sit in the hot sun
That will show them
Cover the earth
If you don’t plant the empty spaces in the garden
The bare dirt
Nature will
With weeds
So seek out good looking ground covers
Pretty perennial and annual self sowing plants
Incorporate weeds that are not out of hand, not too ugly
Cover the earth

Hit them at the right time
When they are young and not formed
When they have not yet formed a thickened tap root
Before they have set seeds and jettisoned them all around
Hit them at the right time
Germinated sprouting weeds are susceptible to hoes
A few times during the growing season
Again and again
Hit em
A woody french broom
Cut and peeled in the spring
Peeled when the juices are flowing
Peeled when its easy to peel off its skin
It ain’t coming back nope it ain’t going to resprout
Hit them at the right time

Restrict your watering
Whenever you water and irrigate remember
You are watering the good plants, as well as the weeds
Restrict your watering
Force your plants to find their own water
A little deeper
Force your plants to take a rest from constant watering
Don’t spoil them so much
They will only suffer in inclement conditions
Restrict your watering

Accept diversity love nature respect her power
This is probably the hardest one
Humans number one
Earth we dominate her
That is what we do
All the time
This is our world
We are the top dog the top predator the apex the master chief
Hard to
Adapt to nature and her whims
But with regards to weeds
Beware of forcing your boxy juvenile mindset
On an ancient order and structure, elegant and wild
Accept diversity love nature respect her power
You will be a happier person
Really
When you walk around town
And accept diversity love nature respect her power
You will see the history of civilization through its plants
And be less bothered by the weedy grasses in the flower bed
You will be happier
When you work in the garden
And see the bees visiting the weeds for pollen and nectar
Appreciate the butterflies drinking the weed’s nectar
Make a floral arrangement with the weeds’ inflorescences
Brew tea with the medicinal weed that the wind blew in
Accept diversity love nature respect her power
Weeds are not really all that ugly, not all that invasive
At least in comparison to people…
Forget your human constructs and rigid preferences
Just
Take it all in

Weeds
Plants we don’t like
Plants we don’t want
Plants in the wrong place
Weeds
Plants that survive in spite of us
Plants that survive because of us
Plants that survive with or without us
Kind of humbling
Kind of takes you out of the center of the universe
Out of that big carved ego sphere
And puts you back into the web
On the edge
In a fold
Tucked in with all life
The web of the universe
The web of all our relations
Something to work on
Our relationship with
Weeds
Pesky lil creatures
Older than us
More prolific than us
So frustrating!

Time to
Go pull ‘em!
Primal therapy mates!!!

 

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